NFL decides to stop these players from leaping over the line, for safety’s sake

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks Monday during news conference at the league meetings.
(Ross D. Franklin / AP)

No more over the top. No more under the hood.

The NFL adopted several rules changes Tuesday, among them one that outlaws defensive players’ leaping over the offensive line to block a kick, and another that replaces the sideline replay monitor with digital tablets.

Starting this season, the final say on replay decisions will be made at the league’s New York headquarters by Dean Blandino, head of officiating, and his top lieutenant, Al Riveron.

“The referee will still be involved, the referee will still give input, but will no longer have the final say,” Blandino said.


The rule regarding leaping over the line to block a kick — something the New England Patriots, for one, have done the past two seasons — addressed safety concerns. Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee, said the play became more dangerous as offenses became more adept at blocking the leaper.

“Early on, teams didn’t know how to block it,” McKay said. “The guard wasn’t getting up in the air. The center wasn’t getting up. Nobody was chipping on the player, and the player was getting a free run at [the kick].

“Now, all of a sudden, the player wasn’t getting a free run at it anymore, and he was coming down at a really bad angle.

“When we met with the [NFL] Players Assn., to a person, they were quick to say, ‘We don’t like this play. And we really don’t like the fact that somebody on Monday gets selected to have to do that play, and be that person.’”

The league has delayed plans to relax celebration rules. Commissioner Roger Goodell intends to meet with a group of players to gather input and provide more clarity to the existing policy while allowing players to show their personalities on the field.

A proposal to eliminate the mandatory summer cut-down to 75 players also was tabled. If it had passed, there would have been just one training-camp cut-down.

Many coaches pushed for the idea of broadening the spectrum of reviewable plays. A proposal that would allow any play to be challenged was voted down, as was Washington’s proposal to move the line of scrimmage to the 20 (instead of the 25) if a kickoff sailed through the uprights.

See you in Foxborough

Goodell, booed in February before handing the Super Bowl trophy to the Patriots, said he would attend the New England’s Sept. 7 season opener at Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts. The NFL schedule will be released next month.

In the aftermath of the so-called “Deflategate” controversy that resulted in the suspension of New England quarterback Tom Brady — and made Goodell a target for derisive Patriots fans — the commissioner did not attend any Patriots games in 2016. He attended two NFC playoff games at Atlanta.

During the Patriots’ AFC championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, fans chanted “Roger.”

Before the Super Bowl, Goodell was asked if he was avoiding Boston.

“No,” he said. “If I’m invited back to Foxborough, I’ll come.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft later said Goodell was welcome.

Chargers haven’t eliminated Mixon

Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon has been a controversial topic this draft season, but that did not keep the Chargers from bringing him in for a visit.

In December, lawyers released a video showing Mixon violently punching a female Oklahoma student in 2014. Mixon, regarded as one of the top running backs in the draft, was not invited to February’s NFL scouting combine.

“We just wanted to pick his brain and see where he was at football-wise because he wasn’t at the combine. He did a good job with that,” Chargers Coach Anthony Lynn said, adding, “He’s still on the draft board. It didn’t change much. … We know he can play football. He’s one of the best backs in the draft.

“We just wanted to do our homework, that’s all.”

Lynn said that he believes in “second chances” and that being a coach involves mentoring young and immature players.

When a reporter asked if Mixon “gets it,” Lynn said he doesn’t know.

“He was definitely remorseful about what happened and seemed like a really mature young man,” he said. “He accepted responsibilities, and moving forward, I don’t see him doing it again.

“But I can’t sit here and say that he gets it. I don’t know. I don’t know the kid. I had a good hour meeting with him.”

Solid endorsement

The Rams signed free-agent receiver Robert Woods to improve a passing game that ranked next to last in the NFL last season.

Rams Coach Sean McVay isn’t the only NFL head coach in Los Angeles who thinks Woods can make a big contribution.

Lynn was the Buffalo Bills’ offensive coordinator and interim head coach last season, Woods’ fourth with the team he was selected in the second round of the 2013 draft.

On Tuesday, Lynn described Woods as “one of the most unselfish receivers I’ve ever been around,” and compared him to former Denver Broncos receiver Rod Smith, who played 12 NFL seasons.

Lynn said Woods, who had 51 receptions last season, can make an impact with or without the ball.

“He has sure hands, [is] a really good slot receiver, and the thing that he does the most for your team is the way he run blocks,” Lynn said. “A lot of those big runs happen because of guys like Robert Woods blocking on the second level.

“And those things don’t make the stat book, but he’s very good at that.”

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